Massimiliano Vaira

Higher Education Quality Assessment in Europe: Institutionalization, Practices and Conflicts

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: quality assessment, higher education, institutionalization, organizational and academic field, conflicts

The aim of the article is to account the process of institutionalization of quality assessment in the european higher education, the way it is implemented and the different forms of conflicts and resistance strategies it generate between the academic field and societal actors, and within the academic field itself. The analytical framework is drawn from sociological new institutionalism and from Bourdieu's concepts of field as a social space. By the first source, quality assessment is conceived as an organizational field in which structuration and institutionalization processes are at work carried by different organizational and institutional actors acting at supra-national level as carriers exerting normative, cognitive and coercive pressures on higher education systems and institutions to incorporate in their structural arrangements quality assessment schemes. By the second theoretical source, the organizational field is viewed as a field of struggles, that is a social space where different actors with different positions, dispositions and interests related to quality assessment struggle to institutionalize a certain definition of quality assessment linked to certain tools and goals. This struggles generate lines of tension and conflict in the higher education field between academic and non academic actors and within academy itself. The last part of the article is dedicated to a critical appraisal of quality assessment practice and goals, as they currently appear, and to some proposal to reduce their most critical flaws and risks.

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